Company claims mining rights on protected Adirondack parcel

The lands in question were owned by Lyme Timber in the Town of Black Brook in Clinton County

The Lyme Timber lands in the Town of Black Brook in Clinton County are protected by a conservation easement with New York State.

A company called Champlain Gas and Oil is claiming that New York state improperly “ignored and misappropriated” its claim to mineral rights on roughly 13,700 acres of land in the Clinton County town of Black Brook.

The complaint, filed in June in New York state Supreme Court, claims that a vast conservation easement between Lyme Timber and New York state was conducted with “bad title” that neglected CG&O’s claim to sub-surface mineral rights.

In a statement released this week, the company claimed that “the outrageous part of this ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ fiasco is that it appears that both New York state and Lyme Timber knew of the title flaw and transacted business anyway.”

In the deal, New York state paid to extinguish residential and mining development rights on the property.

DEC issued a statement today saying that they do “not comment on pending litigation.”

Lyme Timber, which still owns the land and the logging rights on the parcel, issued a statement today acknowledging the dispute.

“We are aware of the complaint and have retained counsel to research it and respond accordingly, said Sean Ross, director of forestry operations for Lyme Timber.

In a statement, Patrick Van Buskirk, managing member of Champlain Gas, said the “mineral assets beneath these acres are extremely valuable” and suggested that they might include rare earth elements, iron ore, and sand and gravel.

If the court confirms that a third party controls mining rights on the parcel, it could complicate the state of New York’s efforts to protect these timberlands from industrial development.
But it appears that only a small portion of the land deal — struck between the state and Lyme Timber in 2007 — will be affected.

Overall, the conservation effort involved 278,000 acres of former International Paper lands. Only 13,724 acres are entangled in this case.

We’ll update this story as more information becomes available.

15 Comments on “Company claims mining rights on protected Adirondack parcel”

  1. Paul says:

    “In a statement released this week, the company claimed that “the outrageous part of this ‘Brooklyn Bridge’ fiasco is that it appears that both New York state and Lyme Timber knew of the title flaw and transacted business anyway.””

    This is really weird. It would not be unheard of for the state to simply ask Lyme to warrant that they had full title to those rights (although it would have been better to check obviously). I find it hard to believe that the state entered into the transaction knowing that Lyme didn’t control those rights. Why would they do that? Just figure that it wouldn’t come up later? Forget it.

    The fact that NYS purchased the Madawaska Flow land without having a good easement for access does make you wonder if these guys are doing their homework. Maybe they have too many deals going to do a good job.

    “Madawaska Flow access road closed to public for now”

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  2. Michael Greer says:

    This would be a great opportunity for the gas company to do the right thing…that is, to concede these rights to the State in the interest of preserving the integrity of the Adirondack forest preserve. This smacks of a desperate effort to squeeze a couple more dollars out of what was a poor investment in the first place.

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  3. jeff says:

    A claim? Show us the deed where the surface was severed from the subsurface. There must be some documentation in the courthouse. Even leases for this kind of ownership are recorded where I come from. If the state wants the subsurface it must be purchased. Eminent domain laws might applied. The subsurface owner should do some exploration (roads would likely be required) however such rights can transfer for generations with no need to develop.

    The Tahaws mine had value.

    The right thing is to not give up rights without consent or compensation or both. States must respect the property of individuals- despite the wrong decision of the U.S. Supreme Court in Connecticut.

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  4. Jack says:

    The deeds are on file at Clinton County there for anyone to see.not only the deeds there but there are maps filed throughout the years that have written on them mineral rights not included with surface. It looks like the state and Lyme timber just completely ignored what is clearly on the public record. I guess the state can just take what it wants?

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  5. Jack says:

    How many other title issues where Ignored in this transaction?

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  6. Paul says:

    The “right thing” is for everyone to follow the law.

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  7. Carol LaGrasse says:

    I have a copy of a long quitclaim deed filed on January 4, 2012 in Warren County (Vol 4399 p 60ff) that I thought was related to conservation easements on land in Stony Creek and elsewere that were sold to NYS where it appears that a list of mineral “assets” from oil to many, many listed minerals to fissionable materials, rare earths, sand, etc., geothermal energy, to any subsurface strata that might be susceptable to use for storage of carbon dioxide, and much more (such as rights necessary in a typical split title to exploit mineral rights) were conveyed by International Paper and a host of other entites to BRP LLC and recorded by Cinco Land & Exploration Inc., with a return address in Houston for Cinco Energy Services. I haven’t had time to research the full meaning of this. As an aside, it is well known that TNC does oil extraction on land that it owns. I don’t understand why the other commentators would be so upset about this, when they are comfortable that the State would buy title that is split. But, of course, the holder of mineral rights in this deed, if it signifies what is being alleged in the lawsuit discussed in the article, is the superior owner and the State and the timberland owner would both be residual owners. If the Lyme deal being discussed in the article has reservations anything like the copy of the deed that I am viewing right now may signify, it would have been impossible for the State not to have been aware of the withheld rights.

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  8. Matt says:

    If this deal was struck with the state back in 2007 and the true owners (Champlain Gas and Oil) have just come across this information it means that they are up to something. Why else would they be preparing title work for their holdings? They are either going to selling this property or are preparing to mine it.

    New York should make an effort to buy the sub-surface rights from the real owners. If it was a good deal to purchase it from a conservation group wouldn’t it even be better to buy it from this mining outfit? Every company is interested in making money, so we should ask them what they would take for it. And Lyme Timber (those who pretended to own it by selling it to the state) should be writing the check and handing the rights over to the state of New York… but for real this time. And then Lyme should be pay a large fine so others dare not even consider taking advantage of our state.

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  9. Paul says:

    “They are either going to selling this property or are preparing to mine it.”

    You mean they want to sell the mining rights, they don’t hold title to the land.

    What other types of rights do they supposedly hold title to? Is it subsurface rights only? Can they use the land above to get at the mining rights?

    The rights are going to be extremely expensive (especially now). Rare earth elements, etc. Where do we expect NYS to get the money for such a purpose? I guess maybe they could choose not to close on some of their other pending projects, and use those funds?

    As far as fining Lyme. If the story is accurate both Lyme and the state knew what was going on? Neither party was taking advantage of the other they were in cahoots. Like I said, I find that hard to believe, but maybe, we have seen stranger things.

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  10. Paul says:

    “Overall, the conservation effort involved 278,000 acres of former International Paper lands. Only 13,724 acres are entangled in this case.”

    Brian is this land deeded separately? Even if it is these other deals have to be reviewed including other conservation easement deals. Let’s identify and fix any problems now.

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  11. jeff says:

    Subsurface ownership is a separate title to property and consists of whatever ownership is declared in the deed. The fee owner of a property at some point severs the two or severs part of the ownership. It may be for minerals, gas, oil, talc etc. Leases of the subsurface are similar and may be for a term of years or circumstances. In comparison timber rights may be leased or retained for a period of years or the life of the existing timber.

    Subsurface ownership is not be blocked by surface ownership and may be transferred with no knowledge of the surface owner. Title searches of the surface do not necessarily track the subsurface title transfers any more than they track current owners of rights of way like power and telephone lines.

    Subsurface ownership cannot be taken by eminent domain without compensation because it is property as much as is the surface.

    A thorough title search would discover if the fee ownership has been divided. But things get missed sometimes.

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  12. Paul says:

    Jeff, I understand that. A deed (like one that I have) says that you do not hold title to some subsurface rights. True, the owner of those rights would not be listed (or any transfers) on the deed but it should list that those cannot be conveyed.

    My question regarding other rights was about how they can get at their rights. For example if you sit on a salt deposit in the finger lakes. A mining company can have title to those rights and they can get at it from land the fully control but that doesn’t mean they can dig a hole on your property to get to them. They may be able to if they own those rights but that would be described in the deed.

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  13. jeff says:

    They very well may dig or drill a hole to get at their property through any surface above their subsurface regardless of their adjoining ownership. They can get at their rights any time they wish because the subsurface owner is dominant to the surface owner in these issues except the surface owner’s surface must not be collapsed. If surface is damaged it may have to be returned to close to original topography following mining or drilling. Depending on agreements or law, the surface owner may seek compensation for some damage to the surface. Roads, for instance, to access well sites stay open as long as needed by the user.

    In practical terms it may make more sense to enter from their existing access points. But in new ventures, new access is needed.

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  14. Paul says:

    Jeff, no in the example I gave Cargill can only access the mining rights they have from the mine that originates on their property. They cannot dig wherever they want.

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  15. jeff says:

    Quitclaim just means we’re outta here. We have no interest in something or if we had or might have had we are done with any interest. Don’t try taxing use because we don’t claim it. It is usually done to clear a title.

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